NFL combine gave players chance to impress

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NFL combine gave players chance to impress

Running back Devin Singletary may be a player for the Bears to consider.

Running back Devin Singletary may be a player for the Bears to consider.

Running back Devin Singletary may be a player for the Bears to consider.

Running back Devin Singletary may be a player for the Bears to consider.

By Kyle Torp, Staff Writer

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As happens every February, the top NFL prospects roll into Indianapolis, Indiana hoping to impress. The NFL Scouting Combine brings an anxious excitement for many of the players coming into town because this is one of the last impressions some teams will have of them before the draft in April.

The week-long event began Tuesday, February 26 and ended on Monday, March 4. Many of the top prospects from the college ranks had an opportunity to work out and show out for all 32 teams in the NFL.  This year the combine was the official kickoff to the NFL’s 100-year anniversary. The NFL has many exciting events and tributes planned for the 100-year anniversary of the league.

This year 337 prospects were invited to the combine. As usual the prospects participated in media availability, team interviews, and on-field workouts. The on-field workouts were broken done by positional groups. Some of the big names who attended were quarterbacks Kyler Murray, Dwayne Haskins, Drew Lock, and Daniel Jones. Wide receiver Marquise Brown of Oklahoma did not attend the combine due to a recent foot surgery. On the other side of the ball, Nick Bosa, Quinnen Williams, Rashan Gary, and Montez Sweat all will participate in defensive drills at the combine.

Quarterback Murray of Oklahoma is the most interesting prospect at the combine this year. After transferring from Texas A&M and sitting behind future Heisman winner and eventual number one overall pick Baker Mayfield, Murray flourished as the starter for Oklahoma this year. Murray not only brought the Heisman right back to Oklahoma he also led them to an Orange Bowl birth in the College Football Playoff as one of the top four teams in the nation. All this after being drafted by the Oakland Athletics with the number nine overall pick in last year’s MLB draft. However, Murray has decided to focus on football and leave baseball on the back burner for now. At the combine Murray does not plan on participating in the throwing drills.

But what does all of this mean for the Chicago Bears? Well, let’s refresh, after hiring Matt Nagy as head coach last off-season the Bears surprised the NFL and the world by winning the NFC North and going 12-4 in the regular season. Unfortunately, all that led to a disappointing ending with a 16-15 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the wild card round of the playoffs, with no one needing to be reminded how that game ended on a Cody Parkey missed field goal. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio left for the Denver Broncos head coaching job with Chuck Pagano filling in Fangio’s shoes.

Now with all that said, the Bears must determine what positions are in the most need of improvement for next season. The positions expected to need the most overhaul is safety, cornerback, outside linebacker, running back, and kicker. Cornerback Bryce Callahan is a free agent but is a candidate to be franchised tagged. Safety Adrian Amos is also a free agent, but the Bears seem primed to move on at the position with a cheaper option in free agency or through the draft. For what seems like an eternity the Chicago Bears are looking for outside rush help again and outside linebacker is an area of help. Aaron Lynch had a solid season when he was on the field and should be back at a team friendly rate, but teams are always looking for more pass rush help. Jordan Howard had another good year but could be a trade casualty to allow the Bears to move back in the first round and find a running back more accustomed for coach Matt Nagy’s system.

With that in mind the biggest challenge for the Bears is not just finding players they like but finding players in the later rounds who they like and believe can be impact players. General Manager Ryan Pace has a great track record of finding impact players in the later rounds and this year will be no different. After trading for Khalil Mack in the preseason, the Bears are left with a third, fourth, fifth, and two seventh round picks.

Here are players the Bears should keep an eye on at the combine. These players are expected to be available when the Bears are picking in the draft.

For the running back group at the combine keep an eye on Devin Singletary of Florida Atlantic and Darrell Henderson of Memphis. At Florida Atlantic this year Singletary averaged 5.2 yards per carry and scored 22 touchdowns to go with 1,348 yards on the ground. Henderson was more impressive with 1,909 yards, 22 touchdowns and 8.9 average per carry this year. Both are on the smaller side with Singletary measuring 5’ 7’’ and Henderson 5’ 9’’ but both have proven in college they can carry the workload.

The cornerback is only a position of need if Bryce Callahan is not on the Chicago Bears next year. With that said the position of slot cornerback is not one teams typically draft with a high pick. Keep an eye on Chauncey Gardner-Johnson who can play corner and safety. He had two interceptions last year at Florida University. In the safety group watch Alabama safety Deionte Thompson. Thompson had an up and down year but could benefit from playing next to Eddie Jackson, a fellow Alabama alum.

The linebacker to keep an eye on will not even be at the combine. Buffalo linebacker Khalil Hodge did not receive an invite to the combine but will work out at his pro day on March 13. Hodge totaled 144 tackles last year with 2.5 sacks but can get bigger and be an interesting NFL prospect.

The Chicago Bears have started to addressed the kicker position by signing former Tulsa University kicker Redford Jones. Cody Parkey remains on the team since his contract is guaranteed for next season. If the Bears bring in another kicker from the combine it will likely be an undrafted free agent. At the combine watch Tracy Cole and Matt Gay.

Extra player to watch at the combine, Utah University punter Mitch Wishnowsky. Bears punter Pat O’Donnell is going to be a free agent and never performed to expectations.

The combine is the start of what should be an interesting offseason for the Bears. As they look to improve and continue the success, they had last year, it all begins with Pace executing smart picks with the few draft picks the Bears have this year. Some fans worry the lack of draft picks will hinder the progression and growth of the team. Thomas Torp a Chicago Bears fan for 45 years shares that belief. “This will be a true test for Pace because he’s had some success in the middle rounds in the past, but this year is a true challenge with your first pick in the third round,” said Torp.

“Khalil Mack was a great addition and worth every penny, it will be interesting to see how the Bears attack this combine and draft.”